Council preparing for new homelessness act

Homelessness. File photo.
Homelessness. File photo.

Changes are set to be made to council policies following the introduction of a national law to prevent homelessness.

Under the Homeless Reduction Act 2017, which was introduced last Tuesday (April 3), local authorities must assess all eligible applicants who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, identify their needs, and provide them with a personalised housing plan.

Previously, people were only given assistance if they were likely to become homeless within 28 days.

The introduction of the new act has extended this time frame to 56 days, forcing councils to find accommodation for ‘at risk’ people earlier.

The HRA states that it is now ‘unlikely’ that councils intervening only after residents are evicted from their former homes will be considered reasonable, and councils must now attempt to provide accommodation before the landlord begins eviction proceedings.

A spokesperson for Rother District Council said: “In order to comply with the act, we have taken measures including increasing the amount of money available to enable private sector landlords to take our clients.

“We have taken on an extra member of staff whose duties include working with homeless people and, crucially, helping people to avoid becoming homeless in the first place.

“This has helped us to double the number of interviews available for people who are homeless or in danger of homelessness, and to double the length of the interviews so we have more time to understand all the issues people face.”

The government is giving Rother District Council just over £318,000 to reduce homelessness in the area.

The spokesman continued: “We welcome the extra government funding made available amounting to just over £318,000, although a portion of this – possibly up to £100,000 – will go towards covering costs previously paid through Housing Benefit.

“While it’s too early to speculate on the potential impact of these measures, we are working with partners including neighbouring councils and Jobcentre Plus to meet the new challenges the act brings, and are committed to doing everything possible to prevent homelessness in Rother within the means available to us.”

Local authorities are required to provide or secure the provision of free services to give people information on preventing homelessness, securing accommodation if homeless, the rights of people who are homeless and any help that is available.

Written by Kayleigh Bolingbroke